Obtaining a bursary gets harder each year as more students compete for the same opportunities. While there is no way to guarantee that you are selected there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances. Apply early Don't wait till you reach your matric year to look for financial aid opportunities. By the time you enter Grade 10 you should have started to think seriously about potential careers. Research which higher education institutions offer study programmes that correspond with your career choice. Find out about entrance requirements, course fees and funding opportunities and apply for these as soon as possible. Early application also eliminates the stress often caused by postponing such an important task. Work hard at school Don't make the minimum entrance requirements for a study programme your academic goal. Go beyond what is expected. The quickest way to get the attention of a company or potential benefactor is through your marks. Sponsors are not only looking for the most disadvantaged student. They want to select a student that is going to make a positive contribution to society. Show interest in your community As mentioned before your success is not merely determined by the actual application process but rather by the work you do before you apply. In some cases applicants will be required to provide relevant real life examples of where they have demonstrated initiative, determination and hard work. Using community work as a reference is a good way to show these traits. Displaying entrepreneurial and leadership qualities outside of school will set you apart from other applicants. Make a point of participating in community work or extra mural activities that will enhance your application. Follow application directions Different companies offer different types of bursary opportunities at different times during the year. Make sure that you don't miss out on opportunities by subscribing to career websites like the Careers Portal to receive alerts about opening and closing application dates. Find out in advance which legal documents must be included and where to apply for the bursary. You may need to certify documents which will require additional time and effort. In most cases you will be asked to fill out a bursary form and return it via post, email or through an online application process. Whether or not you are selected to receive a particular bursary it always pays to do your research, be prepared and work hard. There may be a different opportunity waiting for you on the horizon.